Abraham Malpan

Abraham Malpan

Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan of Malankara Church, was a strong Churchman, loyal to the best traditions of his Church. He wanted only to effect such reforms in the Church as were consistent with the apostolic and truly evangelical traditions of the Church. This he tried to do by translating and revising the liturgy and by doing away with the unscriptural practices which had crept into the Church and by restoring the Church to what he considered to be its pristine position before the Synod of Diamper. He therefore strove hard for the abolition of auricular confession, prayers for the dead, invocation of saints, and unhealthy veneration of sacraments. He reintroduced the practice of giving Holy Communion to the people in both kinds. Further he emphasized the reading and study of the Bible, family-worship and evangelistic work. He also insisted on a high moral standard of conduct for laity and clergy alike. All this created a ferment in the Church and its effects are still discernible in the Syrian Church as a whole”.[1]


Malankara now known as Kerala, is the south western state of India. Here, the Malankara Church, one of the oldest Christian Churches in history was founded by Thomas the Apostle of Jesus Christ.It is believed that it was founded at the same time as that of the Church of Corinth, by Saint Paul

Early days

Palakunnathu Family

In the seventeenth century, a member of the Panamkuzhy family (a branch of the Pakalomattam family), came and settled in Kozhencherry on the banks of river Pampa. Later they moved to Maramon, and lived at Chackkalyil, on the other side of the river . The second son in that family, Mathen moved to the nearby Palakunnathu house. He had six sons and a daughter. The daughter was married to Pavoothikunnel family and the first four sons moved to Themoottil, Neduvelil, Periyilel and Punamadom. The fifth son was a hermit priest (sanyasi achen). As was the custom, the youngest son Mathew lived at Palakunnathu family house. (This house still exists). His second son Abraham Malpan later moved to Palakunnathu Kuzhiathu house.[2]

A number of Marthoma Church leaders were born in this family. Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XIII); Thomas Mar Athanasius Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XIV); Titus I Mar Thoma Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XV); Titus II Mar Thoma Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XVI); were from this family. The present head of the Marthoma Church, Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan (Mar Thoma XXI), is also from this family.[2]

Early age

Abraham Malpan was born on May 30, 1795 as the second son of Palakunnathu Mathew and Mariamma of [Pakalomattathil-Mullasseril][3] (പകലൊമട്ട‍ത്തില്‍ in Malayalam) / Pakalomattom (പകലൊമററം) Family, [[Mullasseril][1]][4] house, Chengannur, Pandanadu, Kerala.[5] He lost his parents before he was three years old and was brought up by his uncle Mathen Thomma Malpan, a Sanyasi (സന്നയസി)/Celibate/hermit priest.

As a Clergy

According to Church practices and Biblical Instructions, theological students were made deacons at the age of 20 and priests at the age of 30. But during the time just before the reformation small children of 7 years were ordained as deacons by the Bishops after taking big bribes from the parents. And people who did not have any theological education were made priests at the age of 16 or 17.

Palakunnathu family had a priestly tradition and Thomma Malpan was a devout Syrian Christian priest. He was anxious to direct Abraham to the ministry to continue the family tradition and Abraham was happy and well inclined to follow his uncle’s advice. So after his Malayalam Education, he was sent to study Syriac, the language of the liturgy, under Padinjarekutu Korah Malpan, Puthupally. It was a residential discipleship like the ancient Indian Gurukula education. Abraham obtained good fluency in Syriac and the Bible and acquired a sound knowledge of Christian theology as he had the innate ability to delve deep to ascertain spiritual truths. He was ordained as a Semmasson (deacon) in 1811, and received the priestly ordination as a Kassessa (priest) in 1815 from Mar Thoma VIII. He was appointed as the Vicar of Maramon parish.


During the time of Marthoma VI, Rev.Dr. Claudius Buchanan, an Anglican missionary visited Malankara. He met Marthoma in 1806.[6] With his help, the Bible was translated from the original Aramaic language and was distributed to the parishes. Soon after his meeting, representatives of the parishes met at Aarthattu church and declared (Aarthattu Padiola) that the people should not follow the teachings by Rome, Antioch or other foreign Churches.[7] This meeting can be considered to be the beginning of Sucheekarana Prasthanam ('Purification Movement - Reformation) in Malankara Church.

In 1816, Mar Thoma X, (Pulikottil Mar Dionysius) appointed Abraham Malpan as a professor of Syriac at the Kottayam Seminary.

His uncle, Thomma Malpan was of opinion that many of the beliefs that infiltrated into Malankara Church were against the teaching of the Bible. While he was the guardian of Abraham Malpan in his younger days, they talked about restoring the Church to its pristine position before the Synod of Diamper. Teaching at the Kottayam Seminary, gave him enough time to read and study the Bible in his mother tongue (Malayalam). That made Abraham Malpan think of reforming the Church.

Mar Thoma XI, (Punnathra Mar Dionysius) convened a meeting of representatives of the Malankara Church at Mavelikkara, on December 3, 1818. In that meeting a committee was appointed to recommend reforms in the Church. Abraham Malpan, Kaithayil Geevarghese Malpan, Eruthikkal Markose Kathanar, Adangapurathu Joseph Kathanar were members of this committee. This was the first step in carrying out the Sucheekaranam (Purification - Reformation) in Malankara Church. For Abraham Malpan it was a great step forward. His friends and members of his home parish (Maramon) gave him full support for reformation. But after the demise of Mar Thoma XI, things changed. Cheppad Mar Dionysius became Marthoma XII.

Due to doubts about the validity of the consecration of Mar Thoma VIII, Abraham Malpan had some doubts about his own ordination. So when a Jacobite bishop from Syria came, he and two others had themselves reordained by him. Dionysius lodged a complaint against them to the government of Travancore and they were fined 336 fanam (Rs.84) for flouting the authority of the Indian bishop.[8]

In 1835, Bishop of Calcutta Rt.Rev. Daniel Wilson visited Kerala. He made certain recommendations to Mar Thoma XII, (Cheppattu Mar Dionysius) for the continuation of relationship between the Syrian Church and the Missionaries. Mar Thoma did not like this interference of the Anglican Missionaries in the Church affairs. So Mar Thoma convened a meeting of Church represetatives at Mavelikkara on January 16, 1836, in which the Synod declared that , “We, the Jacobite Syrians are under the rule of the Patriarch of Antioch .. .. ..” [9]

Trumpet Call

On September 5, 1856, the battle cry for reformation was sounded. Strategy was formed by a group of 12 senior clergy under the leadership of Abraham Malpan. They issued a letter describing the wrong teachings and a statement listing twenty-four evil practices of the Church which crept in by its association with other churches and religions.[10][11]


At the time of Purification, a number of reforms were made in church. A few of them are given below.[12][13][14]

  1. Translated and revised the liturgy thus removing the unscriptural practices.
  2. Abolished prayers for the dead, invocation of saints, and unhealthy veneration of sacraments.
  3. Abolished auricular confession.
  4. Reintroduced the practice of giving Holy Communion to the people in both kinds.
  5. Emphasized the reading and study of the Bible, family-worship and evangelistic work.
  6. Removed pictures and drawings and statues were removed from the churches and places of worship..
  7. Insisted on a high moral standard of conduct for laity and clergy alike.

On Sunday August 27, 1837 Abraham Malpan conducted the Holy Communion service in Malayalam at his home parish in Maramon. Clergy, who supported him also did the same thing in various other parishes on the same day.


Maramon Mar Thoma Church (2005)

Every year on the first week of October, there was a church festival at Maramon, connected with saintly Maphriyono-Catholicos Mor Baselious Yeldho.[15] A wooden image of the saint named ‘Muthappen,’ was taken around in procession and people used to offer prayers and offerings to it. In 1837, Abraham Malpan took the image and threw it into a well saying, “Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19). So when the festival came there was no image to be taken out for procession.

After effects

Abraham Malpan and Cheppad Philipose Mar Dionysius (Mar Thoma XII), were great friends. But when Abraham Malpan used the revised liturgy and brought about changes in practices, that offended Marthoma XII who threatened him with excommunication. But Abraham Malpan informed him that if excommunicated, he would not come begging to revoke it. Marthoma XII, did not excommunicate him, but refused priesthood to the deacons trained under him. [16] Abrahma Malpan was not disheartened. He continued with the reforms. He returned to Maramon. Many of his students joined him to continue their studies. All those who believed that the church need to revitalize also joined him. Members of parishes in Kozhencherry, Kumbanad, Eraviperoor, Thumpamon, Elanthoor, Kundara, Kottarakara, Mavelikara, Mallapally, and many other places made trips to Maramon to attend the service in Malayalam and listen to his sermons. Doors were also opened for reformation in other places by clergy who supported him.

At this stage he had three choices in front of him. Repent and go back to the old beliefs; join the Anglican Church with western beliefs; or go forward with the reformation to restore the Church to its pristine position before the Synod of Diamper. He decided to choose the third one.

Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan

Mathews was the son of the elder brother of Abraham Malpan. After completing his studies at Kottayam, he joined the school established by Rev. John Anderson (now Madras Christian College) in Chennai. After completing his studies, he told his friend George Mathen (later Rev.), his ambition. “If I live, it is only for my mother Church. I will throw away the weeds and restore the Church to its original purity.” [17] With the help of his teachers in Chennai, he was able to make his travel arrangements to go to Antioch. He reached Antioch, was ordained as a Metropolitan (bishop) in February 1842, Bishop of a region for a few months and returned home in March 1843.

Last days

Abraham Malpan was a diabetic patient. Those days there were no proper treatment for diabetes. At the age of 50 he became very sick. He died at 3.00 pm on Sunday, 9 September 1845. Malpan was fully conscious till the last breath. He was buried on the next day in the Maramon Mar Thoma Church. The funeral service was conducted by his nephew Mathews Mar Athanasius Metropolitan.


Abraham Malpan “was of a conservative temperament and yet progressive in oulook.”[18]

Abraham Malpan was a courageous leader and he advocated the reformation with sound Biblical knowledge, sense of history, with integrity and determination, following a habit of prayer and sustaining the faith in his mission. The progress of the Marthoma Syrian Church in Kerala and in the global Diaspora was rooted in the inspiration of Abraham Malpan.


  1. Mar Thoma Sabha Directory (1999), Page 24.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cherian Cherian. (1958). Maramon Pakalomattom Chackalyil Kudumba Charitram. (Family History of Maramon Pakalomattom Chackalyil). N.M.Mathew, (2003). History of Palakunnathu Family.
  3. [
  4. [
  5. Heritage
  6. Buchanan, Rev. Claudius. Memoir of the Expediency of an Ecclesiastical Establishment for British India, Page 76.
  7. Aarthattu padiola
  8. N.M.Mathew, (2007), History of the Malankara Marthoma Church, Vol II (Malayalam) page 88.
  9. Mavelikara Padiola
  10. Zac Varghese & Mathew A.Kallumpram. (2003). Glimpses of Mar Thoma Church History. Page28-33.
  11. Mar Thoma Sabha Directory. (1999). Page 82-89.
  12. Mar Thoma Sabha Directory. (1999). Page 82-89.
  13. Zac Varghese & Mathew A.Kallumpram. (2003). Glimpses of Mar Thoma Church History. Page28-33.
  14. N.M.Mathew. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram (Malayalam) Vol II (2007). Page 20-25 and Volume III (2008) Pages 286-294.
  15. Marthoma Parish Sharjah, Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan Biography
  16. Ref: George Kassessa, Rev.M.C. Palakunnathu Abraham Malpan. (Biography in Malaylam) Page 42.
  17. Chacko, T.C., (2000). Concise History of Malankara Marthoma Church. E.J. Institute
  18. The Most Rev. Dr. Juhanon Marthoma. (1993). Christianity in India and a brief History of The Mar Thoma Syrian Church. Page 43.




    1. T.C. Chacko, (2000) Concise history of Malankara Marthoma Suyani Sabha, E.J. Institute, Tiruvalla.
    2. K.N. Daniel,(1952). Udayamperoor Sunnahadosinte Canonukal (Canons of the Synod of Diamper), C.L.S., Tiruvalla.
    3. Eapen, Prof. K.V. (2001) History of Malankara Marthoma Suryani Sabha.
    4. Mathew, N.M. (2006) History of Malankara Marthoma Church.Volume I (2006), Volume II (2007), Volume III (2008), E.J. Institute, Tiruvalla.

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